Envy & the 7 Deadly Sins
James 3:13-18 is a classic text on envy. The brother of Jesus invites us to not deny the truth about the envy we harbor in our heart.
I wonder how autobiographical was that tidbit of instruction. In that same sentence he also addresses selfish ambition, a evil practice about which one should not boast. Growing up as the kid brother of the Christ must have been hard on the ego.
James is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Jacob. Jacob was the younger brother of Esau, and Esau possessed the birthright as the eldest brother, and also the accompanying blessing. They were two objects worth envying over. Envy is bad for the soul and for relationships, as the story of Jacob and James recount. Fortunately both men were able to be reconciled to their brothers later on in life, though they both had to travel hard roads to get there. Envy is not purged easily.
Solomon Schimmel, a brilliant Jewish psychotherapist and professor of pscychology writes this about envy:
"Envy is the pain we feel when we perceive another individual some object, quality, or status we do not possess."
"Envy is particularly malicious when the envious person seeks to deprive the envied person of what he has, even though if he succeeds in doing so the desired object, quality, or status won't thereby be transferred to the envier."
Envy is nasty stuff, and it infects almost everybody.
Here is how it can often affect me, for I often get envious - it is usually a mild case, but annoying enough.
I am often envious of other preachers who I feel are better at their craft then I am. I hear them preach, I see the results of their ministry (through my limited and tainted eyes) and I then compare my results. I overexaggerate the strengths and achievements of the preacher I envy, and I downplay my achievements and then bemoan my utter failure as a pastor all together. Pathetic, I know...but all too common.
Come Sunday for more ugly insights on envy. And some antidotes to this vice.